Sox playing survivor


Sox playing survivor

By Rich Levine

On Wednesday night, as the Sox kicked off the second game of their doubleheader with Seattle, The Comeback was playing on another channel.

If you're not familiar, The Comeback is easily one of the Top-5 Seinfeld shows of all time; one of those shows that you probably remember as being two or three individual episodes.

It has George and the Jerk Store, Jerry playing tennis with Milos, and Elaine falling in love with Vincent the video store clerk.

For the purpose of this column, it's also the episode where Kramer watches a movie called The Other Side of Darkness and becomes obsessed with comas. In the process, he decides that he'd rather die than ever be in a coma himself, and wants Elaine to be in charge of pulling the plug. Just in case.

"Yeah, because you're perfect," he tells her. "You're a calculating, cold-hearted businesswoman. And when there's dirty work to be done, you don't mind stomping on a few throats."

This comes after Kramer has already offered that job to Jerry, but backs out because he's not confident that Jerry would actually go through with.

"You can't let go!" Kramer screams, before doing something funny.

Anyway, I'm on my couch Wednesday night, watching this unfold in between innings, and two things are on my mind.

1. Nice, this is one of the "Hot Elaine" episodes!
2. Man, when it comes to the 2010 Red Sox, I'm just like Jerry I can't let go.

No. 1 needs no explanation, so I'll just do my best on No. 2.

Basically, I've had this team on life support since August 1.

At the time, they'd just closed July in a 10-13 funk that transformed their 1 12-game wild card-lead into a 5 12-game deficit. They were still dealing with substantial injuries. On top of that, the trade deadline had passed and the Sox were about as active as a hungover snail. They weren't playing well. The organization didn't seem very concerned with getting better. Not to mention, the Yanks and Rays were looking stronger every day!

At this point, I'd seen enough teams with "it" and the 2010 Sox didn't fit that mold. The next night, they lost at home to the Indians, and lost Kevin Youkilis for the season. I had the plug in my grasps, and was ready to yank it like I was starting a mower.

But something in me couldn't let go yet, and hasn't been able to since.

At first I thought, "OK, let's give them until the end of that four-game series in New York. If they don't take three games, then they're through."

When they only won two, I thought, "But, hey, now Pedroia's coming back! If anyone can turn this around, Pedey can! Let's see if they can go on a little run with him in the lineup, and if not, they're through."

When Pedroia lasted only two games, I thought, "Well, they can still beat up on the Angels, Jays and Mariners, and then they go to Tampa for three and then . . . who knows?"

I feel stupid already. Am I seriously still wondering whether they can put this all together? How long will I let this drag on for? Where's Elaine Benes when you need her?

But while we've had ample reason to write the Sox off as dead at many points over this last month, the truth is that they've yet to actually die. For 24 games in August, we've felt like they were about to roll over; to pack it in, and allow us to move on. But these guys are like that cow in Me, Myself and Irene.

The strange thing is that they're not even getting better. They're just not getting worse. I mean, has there ever been a point where they've actually turned us into believers? No, they've just consistently done enough to remind us that they still have a pulse. Enough to keep us interested and watching; enough to make us write things like, "and then they go to Tampa for three and then . . . who knows?"

Really, it feels silly. This is a team that is without their Nos. 1, 2 and 4 hitters from Opening Day, plus their starting center fielder. They're 5 12 games behind the best two teams in baseball. How does any of that add up?

Again, it doesn't. It hasn't for a while. But somehow we're still here, sitting and wondering, "What if they sweep this weekend? What if Lackey, Lester, Buchholz and Lester all put it together? What if Papi and V-Mart find a groove? What if Lowell pulls a Rasheed Wallace and gives them a month of magic before riding off into retirement?

What if . . . what if . . . what if . . .

For all the what-ifs, there's one thing I do know for sure: Without a sweep this weekend, the Sox are through.

(Then again, they do still have six games left against the Yankees . . . )

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.